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bryan scott cederberg
Posted on Friday, July 02, 2004 - 05:58 pm:   

why is the majority of the cover art for science fiction and fantasy books so bad? the cover art of m of f and sf is a little bit better than average. but still it's not nearly as creative as many of the books from the sixties and seventies that i come across while browsing the shelves at the used book store.

do authors have any say whatsoever when it comes to art?

night shade books seems to produce the best artwork, with harrison and vandermeer coming to mind.
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John Thiel
Posted on Friday, July 02, 2004 - 06:26 pm:   

Because 90% of everything is crud. But F&SF is notable for being outstanding among magazines in general for its cover art.
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Robert Burke Richardson
Posted on Friday, July 02, 2004 - 07:24 pm:   

^I loved the 'Faces' cover. I stared at it for nearly half-an-hour, turned to the story, and discovered the people in the story doing exactly the same thing (staring at the faces).

:-)
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Friday, July 02, 2004 - 07:50 pm:   

My first publisher told me: the text is yours, but the cover is ours. By the time I've ever seen cover art it has usually been too late to change anything.

I'm lucky with the art for my new novel: the artist who painted the illustration, Tom Kidd, won the World Fantasy Award shortly afterwards. His motifs match the feel of my book, so it's a happy match-up.

Anyone who wants to see it can visit a site set up by Mike Berro, my official First Fan, at http://www.matthughes.org/

I'm posting the first chapter on a new web site of my own, www.archonate.com, which should be operational no later than Monday.
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Jer
Posted on Friday, July 02, 2004 - 11:47 pm:   

It's kind of funny you say that, bryan, because I was just thinking today, when I saw the new F&SF, that this month's cover art is well above average and near spectacular.

I do agree, though, that often times cover art can be rather disappointing. There are several whole styles of cover art that I find distinctly lacking in any sort of appeal.

But I think it's mostly a personal thing, in my case at least. I'm probably just being too picky.
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des
Posted on Saturday, July 03, 2004 - 12:39 am:   

The cover of the latest Nemonymous is completely white.

Below is my short article published in TTA's 'Zene' and Janet Fox's 'Scavenger's Newsletter' in the mid nineties:

"Iím never unduly sacrilegious or controversial but this personal view is a plea for fiction magazines to be stripped of their illustrations and artwork. Let the words do all the work ó there is nothing more vivid, original and satisfying than the one-off images conjured in the individual reading mind. No longer should there be skulls, spaceships or other paraphernalia decorating the page with their temptation towards a single interpretation of the text. In some magazines, illustrations even infiltrate the print itself, often making it difficult to read. Also, unlinked artwork and text are not always mutually user-friendly. Nevertheless, some brilliant jobs have been done in the past by visual artists in independent fiction magazines. Iím just trying to make a general point, that can have some exceptions. For example, the original illustrations for Dickens and ĎJust Williamí books were decidedly enhancing. But to return to magazines, the artwork (especially that on the cover) ó whether amateurishly perpetrated or wonderfully evocative with excellent craftsmanship ó often deter potential readers from the contents. Readers who have a prejudice against a certain category of fiction as represented by the cover will not discover how ill-founded their prejudice actually is. Visual art is a wonderful phenomenon and has its rightful place in galleries, films, television etc, but please believe me it can also disfiguringly stifle, dilute or hype up the written words which itís intended to complement. Over-egging the textual cake rather than allowing the pure meaning of words to work alone can and often does destroy our pictorial privacy.
I know this plea of mine is tied up with other issues, relating to the marketing of books with garish covers, for example, or to the rights of the writer ó AND my artist friends may now no longer be such! Meanwhile, I hope what I have written above provokes some constructive thoughts."




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cory ench
Posted on Saturday, July 03, 2004 - 04:58 am:   

It would be nice if people could see the whole piece of art for "Tribes of Bela". Unfortunately about a third of the image was cropped off the left and bottom sides so the printer could have enough bleed. I think it is the illustration itself that ended up doing the bleeding! We will post the entire image on our web site in fairly high resolution for anyone who cares to see what it was supposed to look like at www.enchgallery.com. Give me a day to get the thing posted. It will be at the bottom of the home page. I'm glad some of you liked it none the less because Catska and I put a lot of love and care into that cover and were really inspired by the story.
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Saturday, July 03, 2004 - 08:58 am:   

cory:

Putting up the full illustration is a good idea. I wish more artists would do the same. When I go to cons that have shows by sf artists, it's a real pleasure to see the full paintings on which covers were based, without the type and trimming.
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bryan scott cederberg
Posted on Saturday, July 03, 2004 - 01:40 pm:   

what is the painting on the right (with the person holding open the door) under the link for catska ench's galleries from? it's awesome. are there prints available?
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Lee Mendham
Posted on Saturday, July 03, 2004 - 07:21 pm:   

Des writes:

"This personal view is a plea for fiction magazines to be stripped of their illustrations and artwork."

Well, I've noticed that Analog and Asimov's use a lot less interior art than they used to, but that's probably for economic rather than artistic reasons.
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cory ench
Posted on Sunday, July 04, 2004 - 12:10 am:   

While were getting rid of all the illustrations in science fiction literature we should also get rid of all those those darn movies based on great fantasy and science fiction novels :-) :-) because they freeze the characters in our imagination to be like the ones in the movie. So all you writers out there should think about that when a movie offer comes your way for one of your stories. :-) :-)

Too bad its so much fun doing science fiction illustrations. Maybe it's just another bad habbit though and better kept to oneself? I certainly don't want to mess up anyones reading experience. Oh well, will need to give this some more thought! There was however, an interesting project done by electricstory.com where the illustrations came first and the stories were based on the art instead of the other way around. Maybe that will catch on and more people will want more of my work for literary purposes.
Selling more work through galleries seems like a really good idea too because then the images can come straight from the artist's imagination instead of trying to depict what someone else imagined.
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Charlie Finlay
Posted on Sunday, July 04, 2004 - 07:40 am:   

des, even though I'm a writer, I have to strongly disagree with your call to strip away images from magazines. I love words, but I love art too. When Cory and Catska did the cover art for "A Democracy of Trolls" a couple years ago in F&SF, I thought they captured the mood of the story perfectly... but they also helped me see it in a new way. The perspective they chose for portraying the scene, from the top of the cliff looking down, was the opposite of the way I had written it, from the bottom looking up. Yet their version caught all of the relationships between the characters and the tension in the scene in a really vivid way that made my own story feel fresh to me. Do you have any idea how cool that is?

Admittedly, I've been very lucky with art so far. My Maurizio Manzieri cover was great too, and the way he caught lots of little details and worked them into the illustration let me know that I had written them right. But, as both a reader and a writer, I think good art enhances the fiction and enlarges my reading experience. Also, I think it makes people pick up the magazines, which means they're more likely to read my stories in the first place. Which is also a very good thing.
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cory ench
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 08:44 am:   

Charlie, Thanks for the reassuring note. We think it is important as cover artists to make the authors happy when illustrating their stories if possible and for the most part authors have been happy with our interpretations of their work so far. We are always open to lines of communications with writers when an illustration is underway so as to get a better understanding and feel of a story. When we get positive feed back from an author that is the best thing and what we hope for most!
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 11:20 am:   

I'd consider it a plus to have a story published with an illustration.
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Charlie Finlay
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 07:22 pm:   

Cory, while I suspect that it's more important to make the publishers/editors happy than the authors, I am still very appreciative of your attitude.

Ideally, at least from my perspective, everyone who works on a story -- writer, editor, artist(s), copyeditor, layout person -- are all part of a collaborative effort to do their best for the readers,* and the more that team of talent works together or in sync, the better the cumulative effect.

So please keep up the great work!

(*And by this I don't mean pandering or selling out: part of what writers do to do our best for readers is being true to our own vision and our own sense of what's right for a particular story. But that's a separate discussion.)
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 07:56 pm:   

Cory,

I just wanted to say that I thought the cover for "Tribes of Bela" was beautiful and really captured the essence of the story. Seemed to me like the sort of cover that would have you flipping right to the beginning of the story it illustrates after you're through admiring the artwork.
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cory ench
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 11:45 pm:   

Your right Charlie,
When illustrating a story Catska and I do not stop working on an image till the editor says they like it but the writer knows what their story is about better than anyone and therefore their opinion really counts to us!
Teamwork is a very good thing. Having two artists working on one picture is an exercise in team work and collaboration like none other I've experienced. We also do our own paintings of course but the book covers and illustrations we like doing together.
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cory ench
Posted on Thursday, July 08, 2004 - 12:16 am:   

Thanks John!
Albert Cowdrey wrote The Tribes of Bela from the humans point of view with the dialogue and journal entries which is really great and works wonderfully but if you notice the cover is depicted from the Tribes point of view. We thought it might be interesting if the image was seen from the Tribes angle with the humans flying off into the blue. This story seemed to us very fitting for the times. Hope we didn't give away too much of it!
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Adam-Troy Castro
Posted on Thursday, July 08, 2004 - 07:29 am:   

I've been given choices, from time to time.

My suggestions for a certain ANALOG cover were steadfastly ignored; my suggestions for a short story collection were solicited and then ignored.

I was able to fix the TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE cover for another short story collection ("Vossoff and Nimmitz") with a design of my own.

For my most recent F & SF cover, Gordon offered me a choice of two artists; I took the one whose work I knew, but I've since seen the work of the other and was very impressed.

That's about all the input I've had...
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Jetse
Posted on Friday, July 09, 2004 - 03:31 am:   

For those interested in art, both covers and interior illustrations, the genre magazine that has the best artistic presentation--sorry, Argosy--is, of course, The Third Alternative.
Check out: http://www.ttapress.com/index.html

Things will be getting even more interesting when the new Interzone is released in August, with a new design and superb cover art.
But then, I'm very biased, of course...
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Jetse
Posted on Friday, July 09, 2004 - 03:44 am:   

As to Des's points re. art: my personal opinion is that you do it either really good, or not at all.

Charlie Finlay makes a very good point with the cover for "A Democracy of Trolls". Sometimes an artist really nails it, or offers a different perspective and such art is priceless.

However, there are numerous examples of covers or interior illustrations that are quite detrimental to a story. And there are still too many occassions where a bad illustration really kills off my own imagination when I'm reading a good story. In such cases the story had been better off unillustrated.

Now, a magazine, and especially a genre magazine (with the possible exception of Nemonymous) does need cover art, and should get the best they can afford.

On the other hand, every quality story speaks for itself and should not need accompanying art. Art should only be added if it is on at least the same quality level as the story itself, otherwise don't bother.

My two eurocents.

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